Sunshine Cavalluzzi, teacher to "rock stars"
Sunshine Cavalluzzi, teacher to "rock stars"
El Dorado High School

Sunshine Cavalluzzi, El Dorado High Teacher: Being Honored by First Lady "Awesometastic"

See Update No. 2 at the end of this post where Sunshine Cavalluzzi describes her "awesometastic" day. Update No. 1 has what Michelle Obama said about her.

ORIGINAL POST, JULY 16, 7:01 A.M.: During the second day of a two-day swing through Los Angeles, first lady Michelle Obama will attend a luncheon where an Orange County teacher will be honored.

Obama is scheduled to speak at the Grammy Museum's inaugural Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon, which was established by the family of the late public school teacher who recognized the critical importance of music in the education of students at all levels.

This year's award for the teacher from a public or private school, from kindergarten through high school, who successfully incorporates music into their classroom lessons is Sunshine Cavalluzzi of El Dorado High in Placentia.

The social sciences teacher is being recognized for what the museum calls her "innovative economics lesson plans."

Here is how Cavalluzi describes herself on her El Dorado High School page:

Mama of the three most fabulous (and fabulously good-looking!!) children on the planet: Lucy (who is six and a student at Brookhaven), JD (four and a student at Wagner Preschool), and Micah (who turned two at the end of July) and an EDHS grad from the famous Class of '93. I'm proud to have coached the ROCK STAR EDHS Mock Trial team (Orange County Champions 1989, 1992, 1994, 2003, 2008, 2010) for twelve years and to be a former swimming and water polo coach. I'm a UCSD grad (Go Fightin' Tritons!) from Thurgood Marshall College, where I double majored in political science and United States history, and I spent a semester in at Queen Mary & Westfield College - part of the University of London system- in London (the best thing I did in college - I encourage ALL of my students to study abroad!!).

I really really believe in Gandhi's idea that "You must be the change you wish to see in the world" and Margaret Mead's reminder to "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

and I LOVE: my family, my amazing circle of friends, my students, EDHS, Mock Trial, yummy food, traveling, swimming, THE BEACH, good quotes, good books...especially Harry Potter and To Kill A Mockingbird (Lucy's middle name is Harper after Harper Lee and Micah's middle name is Atticus), funny and fabulous TV (The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Jeopardy!, The West Wing, The Office, Top Chef....), and active, energetic, and ongoing discussions about INTERESTING THINGS. :)

A quoter of Gandhi, lover of To Kill A Mockingbird AND a loyal viewer of Colbert? Where have you been all my life?

"I am so privileged to have a job where I can spend the entire day immersed in a subject I love with amazing and engaged students who are learning to love it, as well," Cavalluzzi also writes, and if you have not been inspired by her yet, check this out from her "About Me" section:


1. VOTE - early, often, and EVERY CHANCE YOU GET!

2. CHERISH and EMBRACE your rights - don't take them lightly or disregard them!

3. Jury duty is not only a DUTY, it is FUN - enjoy the chance to make the Bill of Rights meaningful!

4. INVEST early and often - in yourself, in your education, in your life, in your future. Let COMPOUND INTEREST work for you in both the financial and "other" sectors of your life, and BE WARY of the many ways businesses are trying to separate you from your money!

5. We are SO LUCKY to be Americans. Don't ever take that for granted.

God, I wish I had her in high school. My social sciences teacher drank clear liquid from a coffee mug, rolled movies most of the time and, after I did extra credit to get an A, gave a buddy of mine who ditched four or five days a week a B.

Anyway, joining Ms. Cavalluzzi in being honored today is six-time Grammy nominee Janelle Monae, for her "continued commitment to Grammy Museum educational programming," according to the museum.

"Just like this year's honorees, first lady Michelle Obama knows firsthand the power that music has to transform the lives of young people," Grammy Museum executive director Bob Santelli tells City News Service. "Having produced seven educational programs at the White House with Mrs. Obama over the last four years, we are deeply honored to host her as the keynote speaker for our inaugural Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon."

Sounds like Mrs. O won't be the only one lighting up the room, however.

In other accolades for Orange County teachers, Blake Smith, who instructs students with severe disabilities at Valley High School in Santa Ana, was selected by fans to represent the Angels at Tuesday night's All-Star Game in Minneapolis, where all 30 Major League Baseball teams had a representative teacher from the "Target Presents People All-Star Teachers."

Smith began his career in education working as a maintenance man at a preschool for the blind, going on to earn a degree in child and adolescent studies. After receiving a credential to work with special needs students, he joined the Valley High faculty in 2009. Smith went on to found the school's Inclusive Club, which encourages students to develop meaningful relationships with each other.

UPDATE NO. 1, JULY 16, 4:49 P.M.: Speaking at the Grammy Museum event in LA today, first lady Michelle Obama pointed to the work of teachers like El Dorado High School's Sunshine Cavalluzzi with helping raise grades, graduation rates and college-enrollment rates by incorporating the arts into lesson plans.

"But today, as we honor your work to promote arts education and we recognize leaders like Sunshine and Janelle [Monae], we also need to be thinking about all the young people who will never have these opportunities in this country," Obama said. "We need to be thinking about the 6 million children in this country who don't have a single art or music class in their schools."

[Insert Fox News "You know whose fault that is? Obama!" line here.]

The first lady also thanked the Grammy Museum for having flown nearly 1,000 students to visit the White House, where some have been mentored by the likes of Monae, Lyle Lovett, Darius Rucker, Kris Kristofferson, Smokey Robinson and John Legend. Thousands more have participated via video.

"These young people have had so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences," Obama said. "... These sessions are amazing."

UPDATE NO. 2, JULY 17, 8:11 A.M.: In an email to the Weekly, Sunshine Cavalluzzi described her special day.

"Today was surreal and amazing and inspiring and awesometastic, and I'm so thankful that I got to share it with some of my students and to be a little bitty platform for what an amazing opportunity we all have to try and effect positive change in whatever we do," she writes.

It's obvious she'd be just as enthusiastic about her work even if the Grammy Museum had not come calling.

"I love my job so much and am so fortunate to get to do what I do."

Email: Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >